Lagore defends secret meetings
Cross-examination expected today
NNSL (May 22/98) - The clash of personalities at the root of the secret-meeting lawsuit reaches a climax today.
Members of the Yellowknife Property Owners Association yesterday were eagerly awaiting today's cross-examination of former city administrator Doug Lagore by association lawyer Steven Cooper.
"It's the best show in town," said former association president Ken Pook.
Pook fondly recalled association lawyer Steven Cooper questioning Lagore two years ago on the contents of an affidavit he had made about secret meetings.
Lagore, he said, had been tripped up several times by the lawyer, and Pook was looking forward to more of the same today.
The cross-examination is expected to last the entire day. Lagore took the stand Thursday morning and through the day painted a picture of secret meetings very different from the one portrayed by association witness Dick Peplow, a former alderman.
Responding to questioning by city lawyer Leo Burgess, Lagore said the closed meetings were "an opportunity for myself to provide information to council about such things as ongoing negotiations, personnel matters, land transactions and such, and also for me to get direction from council."
Peplow stated two days earlier that heated debates often occurred over controversial matters, and that votes were held and decisions made at the secret meetings.
"In your view, were votes ever taken during briefing sessions?" asked city lawyer Leo Burgess.
"No, they did not," replied Lagore.
To "stifle" debate, Lagore said he purposely had department heads leave open seats on either side of them, effectively separating councillors.
"Some members had nothing to say during a meeting and others would express their opinions," said Lagore.
On the occasions where the discussion advanced to debate, Mayor Dave Lovell and aldermen Peplow, John Dalton and Jo MacQuarrie often moved to bring it to an end, he said.
"The quickest to worry about debate were some of the quickest to get into debate, because they more freely expressed their opinions," said Lagore.
The hearing was scheduled to wrap up Friday, but NWT Supreme Court Justice Howard Irving announced yesterday morning it will continue Monday and possibly Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Doug Lagore's status at the ratepayer's lawsuit was a rapidly evolving thing.
"I think the best way of saying it is it was clarified during the process," said senior administrator Max Hall when asked if the city had chosen Lagore as its representative before the hearing began Monday.
Lagore was back in court Wednesday, a day after being ordered out pending written verification from the city that he is the city's representative during hearings on secret meetings.
In a letter written the same day, Hall wrote, "Mr. Douglas Lagore is the city's representative at the trial. When you require direction or assistance in the defence of the action on matters arising during the trial you may consult with Mr. Lagore."
Hall said the appointment of Lagore as representative of the city was "basically an understanding the mayor and I had with counsel."
The letter notes that Lagore has no authority to enter into discussions of a settlement to the case. It further adds that council has the right to "further different instructions to you in connection with this lawsuit."